09 November 2011

On God and wrath in the Old Testament

"I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn't God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love."

Miroslav Volf

07 November 2011

O simple thing, where have you gone?

Tonight I found myself with comparatively little homework, and the same forecast for the week ahead in school. At loss for stress, I dimmed the lights in my room, turned on some classical music, and sat on my bed by the window and leisurely read a book I picked up from the library. I noticed some pitter-pattering on the window, and I decided to open it up a little and stick my head out. A light fog had encompassed the trees, and small brushes of rain brushed my hair. Out in the distance was a pink and gray sky, appearing ominous yet hopeful.
I remember the last distinct time I saw such a sky was my first year in academy. My roommate and I couldn't sleep, and I rolled up our window blinds and we saw a strangely lit sky at a late time in what was supposed to be a dark night, though foggy and mysterious.
"It's as if something's going to happen," I observed.
"Like Jesus is going to come?" he asked.
— ✈ —
I was reading this evening  from Madeleine L'Engle's Penguins & Golden Calves: Icons and Idols. It is a wonderful, delightful read on her simple approach to theology, exposing the beauty in mere Christianity. One of the themes of her book is the need for Christianity to return to simple faith. She shares the story of a friend of hers who comforts a boy living in neglected circumstances, his parents always drunk and fighting. "I'm going to send a special prayer for you," her friend says to the boy. "I'm going to ask for four guardian angels, one to stand at each corner of your bed. They will watch over you and keep you safe, and their love will enclose you." The boy comes back the next morning, and when her friend asks how he slept, the boy replies, "I think we can cut down on the angel guard. The flapping of their wings kept me awake."
"We lose that wondrous ability to believe," Madeleine writes, "in the inestimable power of love as we grow older and learn, often in brutal ways, that many people are unloving indeed, a realization which makes us question God's love."

There was a Week of Prayer speaker I heard who admonished the belittling of faith.
He asked, When we're driving in the city and we see a funeral going on, and there are all these people mourning in slow procession - why is it that we don't have the sudden urge to get out of the car, open up the casket, and say "In the name of Jesus, arise!"?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a teacher I highly regard. I was working on a report on Adventist Education, and I asked him something about where we might have gone astray. We have as a people of faith diminished the expectations of our faith, and the theology we teach in the classroom doesn't reflect our actions in reality; we resist the work of the Spirit of God. If God were to send an angel down to the room of a student, delivering a message that the student was to share with the school, we wouldn't believe that student. That, my teacher said, is our problem today in our education. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith upon the earth?

Berrien Springs, Michigan

05 November 2011

What we need to hear

Be it the family tradition, the cessation of labor, or the sounds and smells of sacredness, they who keepeth the Sabbath know it approacheth when it approacheth. For me there has almost always been something special that comforted me that Sabbath was near. As a child, that was my mother making the Sabbath dinner; in middle school, it was no homework; in academy it was vespers with peers.

Today I tried to find something, some spiritual atmosphere to remind me I could rest, because with the end of the semester approaching, I sure can't feel rest. I did community service in some project neighborhoods, and that didn't turn out well. I went to one vespers program and I wasn't feeling the spirit, so I checked out another program and that one wasn't exactly for my age group. At last I went to the vespers that the African-American brethren organize, and I found the blessing for which I was wrestling with God.

When my mother and father came with me to Andrews at the beginning of the school year, they had shared stories with me of their experiences in the east coast back in New York. The east coast is a beautiful place for Adventism, at least in some aspects. There is a rich cultural diversity here, and there is a deep loyalty for the faith since it was here in the east Adventism began. In our church in New York, my mother told me people addressed each other as Brother This, or Sister That. My father told me about the diverse styles of worship and preaching. When I told them the diversity I was seeing, I think they were glad that I could see what they used to see.

So at the final vespers I visited tonight, the preacher said his brother was shot last week, but he praised the Lord for it. Sometimes the Lord has to bring us to a point of hardship so we can see the light. I remembered when that happened to me. The preacher went on about Job, and blessing the Lord O my soul in the midst of suffering. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Tonight I found what I was looking for, or rather God assured me I was never lost. I've been needing to hear something assuring for a while, in the midst of my essays and exams.

This is what I love about being a student of Adventist Education. Faith is (or should be) closely intertwined with scholastics. More than prayer before class, more than the teaching of religion and science, but also rather the hope that the knowledge we learn will endeavor us to do everything in hope of a better day.
I remember being outside one Friday evening at the end of a long week with some peers, rowdily (but meaningfully) singing spirituals - much like some mates at the pub. One song we sang went like this:
No more tuition there -
 We are going to see the King.
No more tuition there -
 We are going to see the King.
No more tuition there -
 We are going to see the King.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah -
We're going to see the King.
Berrien Springs, Michigan